In 1992, Louise's songwriting prowess made its debut with the
release of Looking for Rivers. The album is dedicated to co-producer
and close friend, Jack MacKay, who provided crucial early support. Signature Sounds
(her current label) states (and we agree): "With her hypnotic rhythm guitar work,
dusky vocals and the strong poetic imagery of her songwriting, Taylor's music was
already mature and fully developed." Upon it's release this album received glowing
reviews from the likes of Dirty Linen and Performing Songwriter. The first three
tracks, "For You," "High Plateau" and "Walking Shoes," let the listener hear what
exposure to African drumming in her mid-20s' did for Louise's strum. She said that a
key component is "having two fields going at the same time." For me it's a hypnotic
"double-clutch" action that, in conjunction with her vocals, caused my jaw to drop
when I first saw her live. The song that really draws blood is "Los Flores," a paean
to life in a life in a sunny fishing village:
I buy my flowers a La Plaza del Cielo
Down cobblestone pathways I ride my bicycle
To the marketplace where vegetables are sold
And the fishermen call "pescados a vende!"
Fish for sale!
This self-produced effort came to the attention of Fast Folk Musical Magazine. Acting
as a "song editor," erudite singer/songwriter, and magazine volunteer, Wendy Beckerman
took notice of Looking for Rivers when it was submitted to to Fast Folk to showcase
Louise's work. This began a long-term, long-distance supportive and creative
relationship between the two women that persists to this day. Louise had many songs
included on Fast Folk compilations and performed in a number of annual Fast Folk shows
at the Bottom Line in New York City.
In 1996 Louise's second CD, Ruby Shoes was released, her first on
Signature Records. Among the powerful compositions here we find "Dangerous," in which
I'm a warm wind
blowin' in your summer kitchen
I'm a cool breeze
Squeezin' through your backdoor
Won't say for sure, how long I will stay
'Cause I like danger,
Danger in a dangerous way
...perhaps providing an insight to the early, wild wanderlust at her core.
My favorite here is "Silver Locket." The words, rhythm and melody meticulously capture
a mother's love and fear spilling over one another in free fall as she watches her
child go out into the world:
Haven't got my baby on my lap
He runs the streets hot steel in his pockets
Can't speak his tongue if it should sound
Can't catch his tears 'fore they hit the ground
Can't seal his heart in a silver locket
Harmony Ridge Music, a web site dedicated to female singer/songwriters stated:
"An aesthetic collection of even, honest, beautiful songs, sensuous singing and
exquisite instrumentation, Ruby Shoes documents Louise Taylor's compelling authority
as a singer/songwriter."
In 1997, Signature released her third album, Ride.
This marks the beginning of her collaboration with producer Peter Gallway. One of the
hallmarks of his style is an atmospheric quality bordering on the mystical. One of my
favorites, "Maria" is a good example. A slow, dreamy, soaring ballad describes an
Maria may take you down,
Leaves you scattered in pieces or
lifts you up through the clouds
Where you can soar among the winged creatures
...she is gone without a sound
"Run the Wild Country," makes good use of Louise's syncopated strumming style. Its
rollicking rhythm makes it easy to fantasize a fast gallop over a rolling countryside.
One special song, mentioned earlier, "Blue Norther," gives another example of Gallway's
magic as Louise sings:
The waves roll off the tip of the tongue of South Padre Island
like they had something to say to this flea-bit Texas town
where a Blue Norther can blow in like it was here to stay
tie those fishing boats down
This Northern girl's doing all right
serving beans and rice till twilight
when a storm blows in like a good cry
I'm up North again
Blue Norther rolling in
Blue Norther blowing rain
Last year, Signature released Louise's latest album, Written in Red.
Her travels to Ireland added a new dimension to her music. She states: "I'm constantly
trying to cover new ground, and my focus has shifted somewhat as a result of my travels
Some of my recent lyrics are based on traditional Irish and Appalachian storytelling,
and the instrumental arrangements blend my original bluesy style with Celtic sounds."
"Miriam Bell" is a good example. It's a dark, brooding story of murder and madness with
an Appalachian/ Celtic tinge. "My Dove" is an even better example. The story of a woman's
struggle to free herself from a man's oppression, its brooding Celtic mood is enhanced
by the flute backup of Joanie Madden of the Irish group Cherish the Ladies. My favorites
tend to lean toward her bluesier compositions. "Written in Red," dealing with the end of
a relationship, with its twisting melody poured through her smoky vocals is reminiscent
of an old Billie Holiday number:
It's closing time, closing time, written in red
On a neon sign flashing above my head
Can't hold on to nothing
Can't even feel the pain
When the morpine itches up
Through my veins, through my veins
It's a bar room brawl, bar room brawl
All fists and blood
Take it out on the streets
And see who finally gives up
I particularly like the reaction to the CD of musician Frank Goodman, editor of
"I'd put this CD more in the nourishment category than the entertainment category. I feel better,
and I feel more, when I listen. Not because it's some kind of good time music, which it's not.
What it is is many shades of blue, thoughtful and deeply felt.
Louise Taylor's voice comes from such a deep place, surely that's her soul.
And it's speaking to mine...
Louise Taylor stands alone, and is a treasure.
This is the thinking, feeling, person's blues record, and it's a beautiful work."
Louise credits Ray Bonneville and Chris Smither for helping her expand her fingerpicking
style in recent years. She still keeps in touch with Ray, Wendy Beckerman, and Annie
Gallup for feedback, doing song swaps over the phone. Always an avid reader, on a
broad spectrum, she doesn't watch TV-- and writes mostly in the mornings. Her main
goal these days is to deliver a performance that's relaxed, easy and consistent
"a thing of beauty." In all the performances I've seen, she's never failed in that